A Russian oil tanker has been damaged by a Ukrainian kamikaze sea drone, just hours after a warship was hit in a similar attack.
The SIG vessel was approaching the Kerch Strait when an explosion was heard. The incident closed the strategic bridge linking Russia to occupied Crimea for several hours.
The ship was hit around 11.20pm on Friday and was holed in the engine room near the waterline, “presumably as a result of an attack by a marine drone”, said Russia's Federal Agency for Sea and Inland Water Transport.
Footage from on-board the sea drone showed it weaving its way past another ship before it struck the tanker.
The agency said the SIG was still afloat and an oil boom had been placed around the vessel, to prevent any leaks spreading, as preparations started to patch the damage.
The attack came after the Olenegorsky Gornyak, a Russian navy landing vessel, was hit in the early hours of Friday.
Ukraine rarely confirms attacks on targets inside Russia but a source said the country’s SBU security service said the SIG was hit in “another successful special operation jointly with the Navy”.
The vessel is currently under US sanctions for helping to provide jet fuel to Russian forces in Syria.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in Ukraine's southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia, posted on Telegram an audio clip in which the SIG requested a tow from tugboats.
He also posted pictures of what he described as shattered fixtures and equipment inside the vessel.
Yesterday footage was released showing the moment the Olenegorsky Gornyak was hit in a drone attack conducted over 700km of open water.
The attack, in darkness off the eastern port of Novorossiysk, caused the 2,000-tonne vessel to list heavily to port.
The Ukraine-built drones carry a warhead of up to 450kg, similar to that of an anti-ship or surface-to-surface Iskander missile, giving them the ability to cause severe damage.
Costing an estimated $250,000 each, the boats can travel up to 800 kilometres carrying a warhead that can prove devastating against a warship’s bulkhead.
The drones, built exclusively in Ukraine, resemble 5m-long canoes and are controlled by a special technology centre with joysticks, levers and a screen monitor showing live footage from its mounted camera.
Weighing about 1,000kg, the boats can achieve a maximum speed of the 80 kph and because they are very low in the water, they are extremely difficult for a warship’s radar to detect until they are very close.
Naval expert Dr Sidharth Kaushal told The National that international shipping will have to take new measures to ward off kamikaze sea drone attacks.
Dr Kaushal said the new development “poses challenges for the Russians tactically and in terms of the broader international ramifications, these are not insignificant”.
“It only needs one to get through,” added Dr Kaushal, the lead navy expert at the Rusi defence and security think tank.